LL council approves land acquisitions

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The Los Lunas Village Council approved land acquisitions and a land acquisition plan for the Morris-B corridor.

Councilor Amanda Perea was not present, and Councilor Gerard Saiz recused himself from the vote because he and his wife own prioritized property on the corridor list.

The land acquisition plan was developed by the New Mexico Department of Transportation right-of-way acquisitions team to secure right-of-way land for the corridor project.

The new corridor was selected after years of study to help alleviate traffic woes in the village of Los Lunas. The council approved a final corridor last year.

The new corridor would provide a second exit off Interstate 25 for an almost straight shot to N.M. 47. The alignment, after it crosses N.M. 314 north of the 13th Judicial District Courthouse, skirts the Jarratt Dairy on its northern border, then swings south below the southern most part of the Kit Carson Park subdivision.

The alignment crosses the river and intersects Edeal Road before crossing what is primarily agricultural land. The alignment will connect with N.M. 47 between Otero Road and Los Cerritos Drive.

The DOT and project partners can now go out and get formal market appraisals to move forward with final work with each of the property owners.

"We will have to do some title or some survey work … in order to do the final platting of this property," said Dave Pennington, of D. Pennington & Associates, Inc., lead consultant on the project for the Mid-Region Council of Governments.

"The process will take several months at best," Pennington said.

Councilor Richard Lovato was worried the village could lose the funding if the project wasn't done in time.

"This thing was supposed to have been done by July of this year," Pennington said. "There was an extension that was granted because the right-of-way acquisition process is notoriously slow. But, we have until next July, and I would hope that these things could be done this year, but that is to be determined."

The village has the responsibility to hire an appraiser, but DOT will provide a list of competent appraisers, he said.

There is a little more than $2 million remaining for this part of the project, said Christina Ainsworth, village director of community development.

Decisions of the right-of-way team were made based on parcels of land considered critical for a number of reasons.

The land might be sold and cost more later, or hardships were being placed on the particular property owners in that they wouldn't be able to sell or make further improvements to their properties, or property owners were in a bind in some way because they were affected by that corridor, she said.

The land to be purchased was broken up into three tiers for purchasing purposes.

The first tier is the heaviest with seven property owners and costs roughly estimated around $1.6 million.

Later purchases, tiers two and three have only one property owner in each, with a combined estimate at $235,000 in costs.

Most of the parties are willing to transfer their title as needed, and it's possible the $2 million will cover all three tiers of the land acquisitions.

"But there are a lot of unknowns at this point, because it's based off preliminary investigations, even though there were market appraisals done, they are not the formal market appraisal process," Pennington said. "The relocation costs are always variable because you're not sure what you're going to run into, but it is based on the findings of various experienced people with New Mexico DOT that have years of working in this type of project."

A 10 percent margin for each tier was established to accommodate changes in the final costs.

Another variable is one of the property owners who wants his entire property purchased, including the house. But Pennington said the house is not on the acquisitions list and it's not certain it warrants relocation.

"If that were to happen, then that third tier would probably get boosted up a bit," Pennington said. "We'll have to wait and see when we get there."

One critical parcel of property that ties into N.M. 47 that is missing from the list is land that just changed hands within the last several months. The owners want to farm it longer, but are very supportive of the project, Pennington said.

In a portion of land right across from the Central New Mexico Corrections Facility guard station is property on the list that the owners want to hold onto longer because they currently have a tenant.

Pennington said it wouldn't hurt to begin discussions with the state General Services Administration about the land at the prison in order to expedite the project, and make a formal memorandum of agreement.

"I think anything we can do to move this forward we should do so," said Councilor Richard Lovato.

In other business, the council:

•Approved an extended memorandum of agreement between the Rio Metro Regional Transit District and the village of Los Lunas for vehicle maintenance, repair and storage at the village's vehicle maintenance yard through June 2013, with a $50 hourly salary for the mechanic.

•Hired New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps crew members in the parks and recreation department. The new hires include Kevin Mireles, Zachary Bradshaw, Zach Lopez, Julian Alderete, Glenn Niner, William Brown and Hunter Foreman.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.